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Joseph R. DuciBella

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Joseph R. DuciBella, A.S.I.D., 62, died peacefully Friday evening, at home, surrounded by loving family and friends, following a long fight with cancer. Beloved son of the late Sam and Doris DuciBella, Joseph was a founding member, in 1969, of the Theatre Historical Society of America, the foremost organization of its kind in the country. Born and raised on Chicago's West Side, he had an early opportunity to understand theatres when his neighborhood theatre, the Paradise, was demolished. He would visit the site almost daily, and observe, as demolition progressed, how large theatres were constructed. That led to his interest to be an architect. He studied under Mies Van Der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology and eventually decided to pursue a more humanistic approach to design. He graduated from the Chicago Academy of Fine Art with degrees on Interior Design. He went on to become one of Chicago's most sought-after interior designers, residential, commercial, and theatrical, heading his own design firm for more than a quarter of a century. He designed many famous homes and theatres throughout the region, including the 36,000-square-foot Palace of Music for the estate of Jasper and Marian Sanfilippo, housing not only Sanfilippo's immense collection of musical instruments, but an enormous theatre pipe organ and seating for several hundred. It remains today one of the foremost venues for theatre organ music in the USA. He was widely known as one of the most important American theatre historians and has published several books both here and in Europe. Thousands, through the years, have clamored for spaces on his tours of theatres throughout the country, and his Theatres of Chicago (1973) is still a base reference in many libraries. His final book, The Theatres of Chicago: The Complete Illustrated History, is due to be published next year and is the history of nearly every theatre that ever existed in Chicago from the 1840's to the present day. His personal collection of theatre fixtures, historic photographs, writings and memorabilia was perhaps second-to-none, and he lovingly welcomed thousands over more than thirty years to visit and tour his unique home. He was a member of many organizations, including the American Theatre Organ Society, The Organ Historical Society, Chicago Area Theatre Organ Enthusiasts, and many more. He received scores of honors, commendations and awards from all walks of the Interior Design and Theatre History fields. He also was one of Chicago's most respected architectural historians and led many city tours of Chicago's legendary architecture and was a leading figure in the preservation of such important buildings as the Chicago Theatre, the Congress Theatre, and many others. He also worked tirelessly at the center of the project to have the nighborhood of Wicker Park designated a Chicago Landmark District. He is survived by his sister and brother-in-law, Dianne & Bob Pajeau of Batavia, IL; his aunt, Marie Palmisano of Chicago; cousins Jean Roti of Weston, FL; Gloria Taylor of Chicago; and S. Joseph and Melinda Formusa; nephews and nieces, Michael and Kristina Pajeau, Rosemary Pajeau, Dan and Sara Pajeau, Lois Pajeau, Dan Pajeau, and Amber Pajeau; Linda Jo and Lolita Christenson of Rochester, WI; along with many grandnephews and nieces. Visitation 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, July 6, 2007, at Church of the Ascension, 1133 N. LaSalle Blvd., Chicago. Solemn Requiem Mass on Saturday, July 7, 2007, at 10 a.m., also at Church of the Ascension, where Joe was a current member of the Vestry. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to: Cathedral Counseling Center of Chicago, 50 E. Washington, Suite 301, Chicago 60602.

Published in Chicago Tribune on July 2, 2007
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